3 May 2012
A useful summary of a number of lobbying regimes was published yesterday as a Parliamentary Research Paper.
Pleasance Purser has collated the characteristics of lobbying controls applying to elected and appointed officials (and former officials) in the national jurisdictions of Australia, Canada, United States and France, together with the EU. The OECD Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying are also included. At a time when there is continuing media and blogger criticism of improper influence on decision makers in much of the OECD, and concern about pay to play expectations, there is surprisingly little literature about comparative lobbying regimes. A 2008 OECD research paper Lobbyists, Governments and Public Trust which led to the publication in 2010 of the OECD lobbying principles is readable primer.
The Purser paper includes an outline of each regime with a potted history, a specification of scope – what lobbying is and which lobbyists are covered, together with codes of conduct, compliance structures and cooling off requirements. Interestingly, the Wikipedia “lobbying” entry has well referenced descriptions of these elements for the UK and the US but fewer specifications for Australia and France. It doesn’t have an entry for Canada despite the strident advocacy of Canadian organisations like Democracy Watch.
Political interest in raising awareness of the influence of lobbyists and in policing their activities has a short history in New Zealand. By contrast, in North America and increasingly in Europe the lobbying industry is being challenged by transparency pressure groups. These groups also target the potentially corrupting influence of the revolving door, and Minister’s’ political advisers, elements which have yet to prove troublesome in New Zealand.
Public debate flowing from the Private Members Bill to introduce lobbying controls could be better informed as a consequence of the Purser paper. The dissatisfaction in Canada with the regulation of lobbyists may encourage the Greens to look to other jurisdictions for a more effective model.